The cruel hand that deals the cards continued to deny Farnborough Town on Saturday, after another referee's decision played an all too familiar part in proceedings at Cherrywood Road.

Boro were left heartbroken when Mark Wright's promotion chasing Chester City stole the points after Lenny Piper had handled Kevin McIntrye's free-kick inside the box.

And Dave Cameron's 92nd minute spot-kick was enough to give even the most optimistic of Boro fans a few headaches — who must now be thinking if this season just isn't meant to be.

Despite some battling performances of late from a side which has shown great spirit, the fact remains that just about everything has gone against Boro since that magical number 13 was drawn out of the hat back on January 6.

Then, a trip to Highbury and a big pay cheque seemed destined to make 2003 a year to remember. But, although there may be some ardent fans that wouldn't swap anything for those FA Cup memories, the majority would exchange the trophy itself for Conference survival — such is the impact relegation would have on the cash-strapped club.

Saturday's defeat makes it just five points taken since the Boxing Day thrashing of Woking, and how ironic that the sorry slide started just two days later with the reverse scoreline at Stevenage Borough. It makes you wonder just how vital those three points will be at the end of the season, because safety appears to be a million miles away at the moment.

Ian McDonald must be asking himself what he and his side have done to deserve such cruel luck. But the caretaker boss is not throwing the towel in just yet.

"The players feel very dejected," said McDonald. "But we still have six games left and I think that we have enough here and I am still positive."

When asked about the penalty decision that ruled out a vital point for his side, the Boro boss added: "I think that the referee has played a major part in their goal. They have put the ball down to take the free-kick and he has walked over and told them to move it and then he let them take it quickly. I won't dispute that it has hit Lenny Piper's arm but I think that he responded when their crowd went up for the penalty."

To be fair, the manager had a point. After the replacement of the ball Boro were hardly given ample time to reshape their wall and although the ball did brush Piper's outstretched arm, the situation could have been handled a lot better by the official.

Cameron's penalty was a formality, slotted home in front of an army of Chester fans, but before then Boro looked the livelier of the two sides in the closing stages, however, McDonald's side were let down with their finishing touch.

The start of the game was what Boro fans could only have dreamt about, with a ninth minute goal from the lively Joff Vansittart to set the home side on their way.

Tony Taggart's corner was met firmly by Vansittart's head and although Rocky Baptiste's responding header was well blocked on the line, the Chester defence could not prevent Vansittart seizing on the loose ball.

Unfortunately, that rather upset the apple cart and Chester were in no mood to sit back and take that, with an equaliser coming via Ben Davies ten minutes later after the right-sided midfielder had met McIntyre's cross before Jim Rodwell and Taggart could react.

McDonald, playing a five-three-two formation, was left dejected, saying: "I wish we took the lead in the 89th minute. We switched off at the back and we had enough chances to get rid of the ball when it was delivered into the six-yard box."

From here the visitors picked up the pace, dominating for large periods of the first half and causing no end of problems down the flanks as both Taggart and Chris Piper failed to dominate in their respective full-back roles.

The only saving grace for Boro was Gary Butterworth's 25-yarder that sailed just over the bar.

Chester, though, continued to threaten from all quarters and the half-time whistle would have been music to the ears of the Boro faithful that would have been sensing the worst.

Then, in the opening five minutes of the second 45, Boro ran into a purple patch when Baptiste, Butterworth and Lenny Piper created chances but again the end product was not on the menu.

Both sides then proceeded to give the ball away but a ring of substitutions by both mangers gave the game a new lease of life and Ken Charlery, — absent from the starting eleven due to the recent form of Vansittart — proved a handful for Chester's back line.

However, it was the arrival of another substitute in Cameron that proved to be the decisive factor, as the big centre forward very nearly finished off a goal-mouth scramble in the 88th minute before hitting home from the spot right at the death.

Commenting on Boro's plight, former England centre half Wright said: "There is still everything to play for. They have Charlery and Baptiste and if they keep putting the ball in there and backing up the second ball they will have every chance because there are a lot of defenders who will not handle that pressure."

Whatever pressure McDonald's side can put their opposition under, it needs to start again with the visit to Kettering on Saturday, or else the sides only hope may well be the 24 club Conference restructure that is causing such a stir.

BORO: Pennock; C.Piper, Taggart, Annon, Rodwell, Patterson (Green 72), Butterworth, Vansittart, Baptiste (Charlery 79), Lee. Subs not used: Osborn, Potter, Harkness. Ref: M.McCoy. Att: 1,050.

l FTFC Supporters' club, are taking bookings for the coach to Kettering on Saturday. The caoch leave Farnborugh Mian Station at 11.30am and tickets are priced at £8 for members and £12 for non members. To book, ring Nick on 07734 472437.